Off the Grid  Retirement at our remote log cabin in Colorado

Monday, August 08, 2016

Observations from 8 August 2016

Posted by: Rick

We started our retirement adventure at the off-the-grid cabin about 3 months ago. The time has passed quickly. We have been working to convert a weekend/vacation cabin into a full-time home, and that is more work than I anticipated. 

First, let me observe that retirement is a lot of work. I have not suffered from a lack of things to do--many of which are physical. The kind of work has changed, but the amount has not. I stay very busy and do not miss working in the corporate world at all.

I guess winter is the big driver behind much of what we do. Or, preparing for winter. The goal being the ability to live at the cabin without the need to go into town for as many as 5 or 6 weeks. Right now we go into town way too much, as many as 2-3 times per week. But, most of those trips are to get supplies to outfit the cabin for self sufficiency.

The projects range in scope from getting the barn installed to having a way to compost organic waste. I think I've listed the reasons we go into town before, a sampling being:

  • Dump trash
  • Stop at the feed store for dog treats and food
  • Buy groceries & other supplies which can mean stopping at the butcher, a grocery store, hardware store, WalMart, etc.
  • Turn in and check out books at the library
  • Browse the flea market and antique stores for needed furniture
  • Get mail, mail packages & letters

Let's work that list from the bottom up. 

There is not much we can do about mail in the winter. We either drive the 25 minutes to the mailbox (one way) or not. While FedEx delivers to the cabin in the summer, they can't once the roads close. USPS mail and most UPS shipments can be picked up at our mailbox at the Wooden Shoe Ranch. For FedEx, we'll need to go into town. So, we have set up "e-delivery" for important things like bills, banking statements, etc. We try to avoid paper-based mail as much as possible. For other items, we just can't order things to be shipped. We need to stock up now.

If we don't go into town, we can't browse for things to buy. We need to get any essential furnishings and accessories now.

The library has the ability to check out ebooks, so we'll look into taking advantage of that. Plus, they don't charge fees for overdue books unless they are over 120 days past due. So, we can stock up and have more than 4 months to return books!

The key to minimizing trips for groceries, supplies, dog food, etc. is to stock up before winter and have an adequate supply. That means storage space, and that is where we have focused a lot of our effort. The barn is here, and I'm working on insulating it, putting up shelves, and figuring out storage schemes. We are even installing some wardrobes purchased from Home Depot to hold clothing. We also need more refrigerator space and a freezer--projects still in process as of this writing.

Dealing with trash means minimizing it. We have started composting compostable waste (not very successfully). We will be able to burn most paper and cardboard in winter. We will need to deal with cans and bottles, somehow. Probably just clean them and accumulate them until we can haul them off.

We have made progress, but I'm nervous about a few key projects. We have the storage need solved. We have the Ranger, which we will put tracks on in October, for emergency exit if needed. Otherwise, it will be fun to just putt around when there is snow on the ground. We have Internet and TV. (We are still learning to use the Internet bandwidth we get. Several times we have accidentally burned our entire 10GB allotment for a month in a single day. For example, with our DirecTV setup, if we find an interesting program on air that is almost over and hit the "rewind" button to go backwards in the program, the system assumes we want to see it from the beginning and starts downloading a streamed version over the Internet! While it is cool to be able to control time like that, one show can burn a couple of GB of bandwidth.) Cell phone coverage has been fixed with a booster. We have a washing machine for laundry (and the outdoors as a dryer). And, the investment we made in additional solar panels and new batteries is really paying off.

A second refrigerator (and new stove) have been ordered. I think we are close to deciding on a freezer choice. The issue with these is a propane supply which is dependent upon getting our propane generator installed--a long delayed and still uncertain project.

And, scariest of all, we don't have any wood cut, split and stacked for winter yet. We need wood--probably 7 to 8 cords of it--for heat in the winter. There is no way we can fully heat the cabin off our propane heater. There are lots of excuses for not starting on wood gathering yet: we need a wood shed to store the wood; I can't build a shed until the additional propane tank is delivered (the shed would be in the way); the propane tank won't be delivered until the new generator is installed; the new generator is awaiting the needed effort and attention of the supplier...

Wildlife sightings have slowed down. But, it should pick up again as autumn arrives and animals start planning for winter. We've had huge numbers of hummingbirds this summer, but they are starting to dwindle.

Destin is a handful. He has grown up so fast. He is smart. And, strong willed. We need to work a bit harder on training, especially the recall. He plays a game of "hide and seek" and "come chase me" when it is time to come inside.

We've had quite a few days where we could not be outside much because of smoke from the Beaver Creek fire. Fire is an ever present danger here in the summer. We've taken many steps to mitigate fire danger to the cabin, and I think the risks to us would be small even with a fire in the area. Still, very scary. At least it has been cool the last few days with some rain, low wind, and higher humidity.

I guess that is it for my first "observations" post. I hope to do such a post about once every 3-4 months taking a higher-level and longer-term view of our life "off the grid".

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